Efforts by the national flag carrier, RwandAir, to expand its footprint across West Africa have been boosted following the signing of new airspace agreement between government of Rwanda and Nigeria.
The agreement was signed on Monday in Kigali by Jean de Dieu Uwihanganye, Rwanda’s state minister for transport and his counterpart Hadi Abubakar Sirika, Nigerian state minister in charge of aviation.
The agreement gives the national flag carrier RwandAir the 5th freedom to operate in Nigeria’s air space without any limitations.
It also provides for exchange of aviation expertise and conducting of trainings between Rwanda and Nigeria’s aviation sectors.
The bilateral airspace service is geared at enhancing connectivity between the two countries thus generating more trade for the two nations, said minister Uwihanganye.
“With the provision of fifth freedom which is reciprocal, the interconnectivity between the two countries will facilitate the private sectors of both countries to realise and tap into the economic and social benefits,” Uwihanganye noted.
He added that the signing of the Bilateral Air Service Agreements (BASA) with Nigeria and opening of more routes by RwandAir presents Rwanda’s private sector with enormous opportunities in an economically vibrant and large market of more than 190 million people.
RwandAir welcomes deal
Chance Ndagano, RwandAir’s Chief Executive Officer said the deal offers an opportunity to the national carrier to fulfill its mission of connecting Rwanda to the rest of Africa and beyond.
“Our mission is to facilitate movement of people and goods across Africa and beyond; therefore this particular agreement will help us achieve the objective on top of promoting trade and tourism between the two countries,” he noted.
RwandAir, currently flies to Lagos and is expected to start flights to Abuja in May 2018, he added.
Silas Udahemuka, the Rwanda Civil Aviation Authority (RCAA) director general applauded the agreement as another opportunity for RwandAir to expand its foot prints on the African continent.
Meanwhile, Nigeria’s state minister Sirika reaffirmed his country’s strong cooperation with Rwanda, describing the latest agreement as a timely shot that will help enhance bilateral relations between the two countries.
Currently, Rwanda has 71 Bilateral Air Service Agreements within and outside Africa.
Over the years, the growing bilateral relations between Rwanda and Nigeria have seen the two countries develop cooperation on several fronts.
In December 2017 the two countries inked a Memorandum of Understanding to facilitate technical cooperation in aviation.
Equally, Rwanda recently concluded negotiation and signing of bilateral air service agreement with Cape Verde, opening more potential market opportunities for RwandAir and Rwanda’s private sector.
Other planned routes
Meanwhile, the national carrier is planning to launch flights to New York, in the U.S. and other Asian destinations next year.
On the African front, the airline plans to fly to Conakry in Guinea, Bamako in Mali as well as Dakar, Senegal.
Other planned destinations are Lilongwe in Malawi and Durban in South Africa.
In 2016, the airline acquired its first A330 series (A330-200 and A330-300 Airbus aircraft) to boost its fleet and capacity to compete globally.
The IATA Operational Safety Audit certified airline carried more than 650,000 passengers last year and projects to transport over three million passengers in the next five years.